White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, taking a position I think would actually be beneficial to the health care debate, has been slapped down by liberal activists and even the President himself. Emanuel suggested that the White House would consider a “trigger” clause on a public option health plan, which means that the plan might not be adopted at all if private insurers met certain guidelines. Within hours, the Progressive Caucus and MoveOn came out strongly against Rahm’s comments, and President Obama even took time out of his Moscow trip to publicly restate his support for the public option.
I agree with Rahm Emanuel on very little, but the “trigger” seems to me a valuable compromise option. It preserves the free market system for the time being, and delays and perhaps even forestalls government involvement. What’s unfortunate is that it’s clear from this episode that political pragmatism and centrist governance aren’t what’s driving the agenda, it’s liberal activism.
So committed are the activist groups to a publicly-funded and government-run health care plan that they will accept no substitute, no dilution of the prize, and certainly no compromise. With the President’s statement, it’s clear he’s on the side of the activists here as well, so a public option seems to be a non-negotiable part of any attempt at health care reform. Unfortunately, it’s also the most unsustainable portion and will prove to be the most damaging. And the rabid support of the public option demonstrates that it’s not the intention of the Obama administration to reform health insurance – it’s their intention to dominate and drive out private insurers with a government plan.
Taking the “trigger” path would have been at least a token step at attempting to appease the concerns of many that government is bound and determined to get into the health insurance business. With the rebuff of Rahm, it should be patently clear who’s driving the bus when it comes to setting the agenda for Congress and the White House. Here’s a hint: it’s not you or me.